With over 1000 species of birds, Uganda accounts for 50% of Africa’s birds & 10% of the global population. Given the country’s remarkable diversity of habitats that no other area in Africa can match, & not forgetting the favorable year-round tropical climate, naturally Uganda is the preferred destination for bird watching in Africa. However, there haven’t been enough initiatives taken towards monetizing and promoting bird watching as a lucrative tourism package both locally and globally.
Bird watching, as Mr. Byaruhanga Herbert – one of Uganda’s premier bird guides – explains, is the best nature experience because it never disappoints. “You won’t fail to see the birds” he says. He further explains that birding trips last longest (on average 3 weeks) compared to other tourism activities, and on average a birding tourist will spend approximately US$6000 during the trip. So if Uganda is to attract at least 1000 birders a month that would earn the country about US$6.000.000 in just one month! This would overwhelmingly boost the economy and thousands of jobs would be created.
One of the initiatives being taken to promote the industry is that to bridge the gap between the media industry in Uganda and the tourism sector. Because there has been more negative than positive reporting on Uganda from both the local and international media, the tourism industry as a whole has been affected greatly. In other words, even our local media has given little publicity to the overwhelming natural beauty of this Pearl of Africa, thus unknowingly or ignorantly suffocating the country’s potential as a top tourism destination and the number one for bird watching in Africa.
As part of the initiative, the Uganda Wildlife Authority in partnership with the Uganda Bird Guides Club is organizing Journalists’ Birding Day Trips to different birding hotspots around the country. Journalists from all the media houses in Uganda meet with the bird guides (both the seniors and beginners) and go out birding together, learning and appreciating the beauty of birding in Uganda. This will educate the journalists and enable them report positively on the industry hence help promoting & monetizing the birding package.
Journalists’ Birding Day Trip to Kasenge Forest
On Saturday 6th July, the first such trip was organized to Kasenge Forest in Mukono. The trip was well attended and a number of media houses were represented including Uganda Broadcasting Council (UBC) & Star Television, The New Vision, WBS TV, the Daily Monitor, and some freelance journalists. Journalists were provided with the necessary optics and went out birding with the members of the Uganda Bird Guides Association guided by two of Uganda’s most senior birders, Mr. Herbert Byaruhanga and Mr. Kamugisha Johnnie. Some of the spectacular birds sighted at the extremely rich Kasenge Forest include the Great Blue Turaco, Cattle Egrets, Woodland Kingfishers, Madagascar Bee-eaters, and Giant Kingfisher.
At the end of this exciting expedition, there was a general sense of understanding and appreciation of bird watching among the journalists than ever before given that most of them were birding for the first time. They all agreed to promote this adventure and promised to participate in the forthcoming arrangements.